Route du Rhum : What progress has been made in terms of safety over four years ?5 min de lecture

  • Competitive sailing

Interviews, surveys, key events and news from Eurolarge Innovation members… Every 3 months, the Bretagne Sailing Valley® News covers the economic and technological news of the Breton competitive sailing. Discover below the news related to the issue of safety in sailing race. 

Résultat de la traducti

Safety on the race is based as much on the design of the boats, their structure and construction and their equipment and increasingly the ability to maintain the link between the skippers and the shore during the event. A few weeks before the start of the twelfth edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe here is a review of progress in this area.

If the retiral rate of the last Route du Rhum was not particularly high compared to previous editions – 35%, against 28% in 2014, it really peaked at 50% during a brutal edition in 2002 when damage in the Ultime class marked the race- this 2018 edition was marked by spectacular damage in the Ultim class: Banque Populaire IX capsized following the breakage of the front crossbeam – it was not possible to rebuild it – the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild lost the front of a damaged float, while Sodebo Ultim 2 had to stop for a few days in Spain following a problem with the front link arm.

Banque Populaire team manager Ronan Lucas speaks of the “traumatic experience” from which the team learned lessons for the building of Banque Populaire XI (launched in April 2021), the Ultim on which Armel Le Cleac’h will race from November 6. “We decided to make a double beam structure on the new boat with a real IPN beam. It is a choice that costs several hundred kilos for a boat designed to circumnavigate the globe. We now know that in the event of a crack in the fairing, which is never easy to detect, the boat can be made safe by Armel.”Although this choice of structure, unprecedented on an offshore racing trimaran, has not been followed by others, all the Ultims have been reinforced since the last Route du Rhum. Nomex (honeycomb) has disappeared from the bottom of the hull, and it is now also prohibited in the bottom of the hulls of the Imoca, in order to avoid delamination linked to slamming (repeated impact with the waves) as seen often on the foilers.

The hull shapes of the new generation of 60-foot foilers now also favor a smoother passage through the sea with spatulated, rounded bows, and the slamming zones having been reduced, but it is now the rear of the hulls that are needing attention.

Strength and the monitoring of it

Now more efficient due to the improvement of the foils, the Ultims and the Imoca are also much more closely monitored. In four years, the number of data measurement points has increased massively, an area in which companies such as Pixel sur merAIM45 and Ocean Data System have become leaders. “Today, an Ultim is capable of flying at 30 knots upwind, which creates big accelerations of speed and therefore considerable shocks on the waves,” explains Xavier Guilbaud, an architect at VPLP Design, designers of Banque Populaire XI and SVR Lazartigue. “Before, the loads were only measured in the rigging and the foils. Now, the whole structure has data load sensors.” On board Banque Populaire XI, there are 222 sensors which send this precious loading information to the on-board computer as well as the shore crew in real time!

The teams are honor bound not to send any information to the skipper that could enhance the performance of the boat in any way, the exception is made from this year concerning safety: “If we spot abnormal load data which indicates a problem on board that the skipper has not seen, we can warn him, but we have an obligation to also at the same time inform the organization,” explains Ronan Lucas. This is confirmed by Francis Le Goff, race director of the Route du Rhum: “It is a departure from the rule of non-assistance but it seems logical to us given the stakes. But we reserve the right to keep the jury in the loop to see whether or not to apply a penalty.”

These safety issues don’t only concern the Ultims. In the Imoca, “The rules are constantly changing,” explains the class president, Antoine Mermod. “Following the accident of Kevin (Escoffier) during the last Vendée Globe as just one example we have reviewed the life rafts in a partnership with Plastimo, these now have new reinforcements and the presence on board of a satellite telephone. This raft will now be fitted to all Imocas and will soon be available for sale at Plastimo.”

And the Rennes company AMA has signed a contract with the organizers of the Route du Rhum to distribute smart glasses to skippers. Called Xpert Eye, they could be a valuable aid, especially in the context of medical consultations. Thomas Waendendries, president of AMA, explains: “The transmission of the image by the glasses uses the satellite network of the boat and we configure them for each skipper before departure. Unlike a network like WhatsApp, we control the flow of data and each communication with the earth can be traced, which removes all doubts about use that would not be strictly in the area of safety.”


Credit Photo : © Eloi Stichelbaut / polaRYSE / Charal


To receive a preview of articles, news, appointments… SIGN UP for the Bretagne Sailing Valley Newsletter®

Sign up